Essential Bach, Rick Bach the Artist

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By Bob Murray, Art Reporter

Rick Bach next to one of his impressive works.
Rick Bach next to one of his impressive works.

Everyone has heard of Art Impressionism.  Rick Bach’s art could be called, Impressivism.  He calls it Modern.  It’s a lot of every good thing about art – traditional, contemporary, modern and very contemporary.  Bach’s art is also classically contemporary. His larger works appear timeless.  He showed me some photos of completed and installed sculptures and murals that were monumental in size and scope. 

Bach has been in the business of art for over 22 years, many working outside of the Washington area but hoping to do a lot more here in the coming years. He has been designing and fabricating architectural metal/fine art for restaurants and commercial spaces. As a full time artist, Rick works from his apartment/studio in Shirlington, Virginia and a larger studio in an upcoming Southeast Washington neighborhood.  His harvest of riveting paintings and sculptures in both locales have an immediate impact on the senses.  One main composition subject is the “skull,” the human skull, that frontal bone that carries the elements of the face and head. It carries some of the features of Bach’s art i.e., seeing, hearing, speaking, frowning and smiling.

Bach's work is powerful and insightful.
Bach’s work is powerful and insightful.

Bach’s striking numerous renditions of the face show his rigorous use of few linear strokes, broad but fine, swirling to indicate expression and character.  His use of acrylics in bold colors, instead of pastels, gives his facial formations more serious countenances.  They correspond to his cartoon-like figure drawings that have more whimsical and musical energy. There is no missing Rick’s solid rock music background which plays out in just about everything I saw.  His lyrical lines and juxtaposition of compositions give heavy proof of an intensive, hands-on life in improvisational music scores.  As I leafed through several of his remarkable, dramatic sketchbooks of a lifetime of drawings and conceptual plans for projects, I found clippings from his own rock band days in Western Pennsylvania and New York. Rick’s work has a large audience and legacy in the Pittsburgh area where he has another working studio.

Bach’s paintings on aluminum, paper, canvas and board reflect one of the dualities in his prolific work over several decades that express a kind of sobering awareness of a fear and tension linked with an exuberant vitality – connecting all beings of his own creation.  Many skull renditions glaze at you with anguished startling facades coupled with an extraordinary burst of humanity.  They have a passive and acrobatic merge with Rick’s liberated, loose and strong brush.   Bach paints action with fiery inspiration in appealing forms.  His skulls as well as his animals like monkeys, horses and other living things do not necessarily project gloom but a tested perceptibility that one can only recognize as a very personal, transforming actuality.  His intricate color-line portrait version of his dog speaks to Bach’s passion for an effective art form that spoke at once to me.

In his Virginia studio I was amazed at several versions of Bach’s steel/metal heads, free standing and wall pieces – all sizes, intricately laced steel, some round and open-worked, others solid and angular.  I believe he said these were being prepared for a gallery.  There were some table-sized silhouettes in steel on pedestals resembling work by Matisse and Picasso.  The open-laced steel or metal maintains the plasticity and pliability giving Bach’s sculptures a notion of animation.  These pieces could be easily incorporated into any art lover’s home or office setting.

“Modern,” he says, when asked again about his style.  I am attracted to the Matisse-like work in Rick’s two-dimensional pieces in their simple and free forms.    I recognize also Picasso-like tendencies to contract subtlety with the lyrical (musical) contours.  Altogether Rick’s “modern” style runs toward a rhythm of movement.  Like Matisse and Picasso, his paintings and three –dimensionals are absorbed by the spectra of reds, oranges, blues and yellows that shout out for attention.  The metal, aluminum and steel work seems light in a texture of certainty and stability.  It’s easy to see why architects and interior planners would give serious thought to using a piece like. Impressive.

In an art media article by Rice Gagliano in the “Weekend,” August 19, 1994, I noted the header, “Speed Metal Art.”  It states a lot about a show called “Psychotic Episodes,” a series of 48 painted steel slabs, including a statement that Rick Bach wanted his work and technique to be taken seriously. He stresses that Rick didn’t want his work to be taken as just commercial art but beyond, even though he didn’t have a fine art background.  Today, however, we see a modern fine art, Bach’s Art, that goes beyond traditional terms.

It’s worth focusing on something else from that article by Gagliano.  It’s Rick’s own outlook on all of this artistry.  “Playing music is such a primal release, you know?  Standing there and screaming at the top of your lungs. It’s so immediate.  And ‘painting’ …. it’s just as satisfying when its finished, but it’s a lot more painful, I think, to do.”

So, look for modern art of the fine featured, unusually soft-spoken, unassuming, classically, maybe you could say beautifully, bald Rick Bach.  Impressive.  Bach’s Art Rocks.